Illustration by Magdalena Xochitl Burtnik Urueta
Photo by Lica Stein

From time immemorial, people greeted May with glee, the warmth of the rays of the spring sun, the chirping of birds, the first greenery, the first flowers. Spring always brings with it a feeling of renewal, generates bright dreams and hopes in the soul of a person.

This has been the case for centuries. But since 1890, the first day of spring has been filled with a different, qualitatively new meaning. Workers from different countries then declared to the whole world that people should not only rejoice in the spring in nature, but also fight for the spring of humankind.

On May 1, 1886, tens of thousands of workers went on strike in Chicago, demanding an eight-hour work day. In the days following the world’s first May Day march, a massacre was perpetrated by the police against workers at a rally. The event is known as the Haymarket massacre (also known as the Haymarket affair).

However, since those early violent days, May Day has been celebrated for over 100 years in the spirit of international solidarity, the spirit of fellowship of the working people of all countries. It is observed every year to pay tribute to the contribution of workers across the world.

May Day is also known as Workers’ Day or International Workers’ Day. May Day has different origin stories in different countries. However, the common theme in all countries is the working people taking a stand against the exploitation they were subjected to.

2021 May Day is the second year in the times of COVID-19, which has had a great impact on world economies, communities and working conditions. Hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed or still temporarily laid off work. Masses of workers are deprived of the minimum essential for a dignified life, searching in vain for work for months, meanwhile world military spending has risen to almost $2 trillion in 2020. Essential workers across the globe are fighting for better working conditions. Alongside this, there is a growing demand for more social protection and different types of unions, including unions for non-standard and self-employed workers, including artists.

According to a recent study, the music, performing arts and visual arts industries have been hit the hardest, with revenues and employment falling by some 54 percent and 57 percent, respectively, in 2020, while the film, television, video, radio and photography industries could see revenue and employment losses of 57 percent and 42 percent, respectively (Oxford Economics 2020).

The crisis hit labour markets hard at a time when, for decades now there has been a gradual unravelling of labour laws in the name of flexibility.

femLENS marks this day as a start of the “Women at Work” campaign. “Women at Work” is a global community photo project, and we ask everyone to participate!

Join us in celebration and acknowledgment of women’s jobs and professions! Take photos (portraits and/or locations) and share them using the hashtag #femlensatwork.

Visit our website for more information on how to participate.

Solidarity and unity of workers!